You Can Help Protect Our Climate
You can help protect our climate through your actions, your involvement, and your willingness to talk with others. You can help reduce carbon pollution. The work to address climate change happens at a local level and is critical to the global effort.
The most powerful lever we have is our voice. We can urge our local, state, and national representatives to pursue climate mitigation. And individually we can talk about climate change with our families, our friends, our social circle, and our places of work. When we talk about what we are doing for the climate, others become engaged in solving the problem. “Change begins with knowledge. More than half of Americans rarely – if ever – talk about climate change because they don’t know enough, are overwhelmed, or think it’s scary.” Talking makes it easier for everyone to take steps toward addressing climate change, the biggest challenge facing us.
To find actions you can take to contact officials, check the text slider on the home page for current issues. The most effective method of influencing your representatives, in order, is: 1. Attend a meeting, 2. Call/Phone, 3. Email, 4. Sign an online petition.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead
Top Ten Actions You Can Take to Protect our Planet
To protect our planet, we need to:
- Work together to demand big changes—move to 100% clean energy.
- Do what each of us can as individual contributors in defense of our climate.
Climate change is driven by greenhouse gasses, a point on which 99% of scientists agree. To repair and protect our planet we have options that bring climate change to a halt, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to achieve net-zero emissions. Some of the actions are big, some are small, but all of them are necessary to correct the climate imbalance.
1: SPEAK UP and VOTE
Let your representatives know that you want action on climate change. From the local to the federal level, make sure you vote and get in touch with local, state, and federal representatives. Environment.Yale.Edu
- Vote for candidates who will work for legislation that fights climate change.
- Participate in the democratic process: volunteer to get out the vote, go to meetings, get in touch with your representatives, and testify in local hearings: tell them climate change is a very important issue to you. Find your representative here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-
officials/ or any of these sites.
"...system-level changes to the way human societies use energy and natural resources are necessary to limit global warming to ‘safe’ levels.” Green Business Network
“Public will, especially as expressed through citizen activism, is an important influence on the policymaker process. Strong public demand increases the likelihood that governments will prioritize climate change action." Environment.Yale.edu
2: SHARE by TALKING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE
Learn—and talk—about climate change and what we can all do to reduce it.
- Talking about what you are doing encourages others to act. By talking about it, we can move beyond “the political polarization linked to the phrase climate change.” ScienceAlert.com
- At your workplace, advocate for environmentally sound policies by your employer, such as recycling and having a green supply chain. If possible, show how the change will save the organization money. Reuters/Business
“We can't solve a problem we don't talk about.” Nature.org
- Ask someone what they think about climate change and then listen to their answer.
- Connection is more important than facts—identify where you agree about climate change and start there.
- Remember—it’s a conversation, not a conquest.
- Stay connected to the friend and the conversation rather than arguing or letting your frustration take over—stay kind.
“Change begins with knowledge. More than half of Americans rarely – if ever – talk about climate change because they don’t know enough, are overwhelmed, or think it’s scary.”GreenAmerica.org
3: REDUCE ENERGY USE
- Use cold water whenever it makes sense—laundry and other tasks may not require heated water. ColdWaterSaves.org
- Install a heat pump in place of existing furnace, water heater, or both, when an existing system fails. NYTimes
- Install sensor-driven switches and lighting. TheEcoGuide.org
- Work from home regularly, if your job permits, to cut down on commute-related pollution. TheRevelator.org
- Install a smart thermostat, which you can program to turn down the heat at night. EnergyStar.gov
- When possible, replace appliances with energy-smart systems. EnergyStar.gov
- When possible, replace home systems with water conserving options. LookForWaterSense.epa.gov
- Turn down the thermostat when you are on vacation. Energy.gov
- Use power when demand is lower, if this is possible in your community. This lowers electricity cost and evens out demands on the power grid, making it better able to use renewables. Smart meters may be available from your utility. Energy.gov
Burning fossil fuels: EIA.gov
“In the United States, most of the emissions of human-caused (anthropogenic) greenhouse gases (GHG) come primarily from burning fossil fuels—coal, natural gas, and petroleum—for energy use.” EIA.gov
“Fossil fuels consist mainly of carbon and hydrogen. When fossil fuels are combusted (burned), oxygen combines with carbon to form CO2 and with hydrogen to form water (H2O). These reactions release heat, which we use for energy.” EIA.gov
“Coal is the dominant CO2 emissions source related to electricity generation.” EIA.gov
Fossil fuels: UN.org
“Energy is at the heart of the climate challenge – and key to the solution.” UN.org
Fossil fuels, “such as coal, oil and gas, are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions.” UN.org
Telecommuting “Various studies have found that telecommuting actually reduces driving somewhere between 60 and 90% of commute vehicle miles traveled (VMT). We’ll split the difference and calculate that telework reduces commute miles by about 75%, meaning the new teleworkers could avoid around 164 billion miles driven.” TheRevelator.org
Effect of this change: Reducing energy use at home can “reduce your carbon footprint by up to 900 kilograms of CO2e [carbon dioxide equivalents, which add all emissions and convert to units of carbon dioxide] per year.” UN.org
4: USE RENEWABLES
- Almost every household, including renters, can opt for renewable energy through their local utility. Search for your local utility provider. For example, Xcel Energy offers a program called Renewable Connect through which you can purchase energy generated using renewable technologies. InMyArea.com/Utilities
- Homeowners can consider adding solar panels. Consumer.FTC.gov
“Energy is at the heart of the climate challenge – and key to the solution. Renewable energy sources – which are available in abundance all around us, provided by the sun, wind, water, waste, and heat from the Earth – are replenished by nature and emit little to no greenhouse gases or pollutants into the air.”UN.org
State by state solar summary SEIA.org
List of utilities by state NorthAmerican.com
Effect of this change: “Switching your home from oil, gas or coal-powered energy to renewable sources of energy, such as wind or solar, can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 1.5 tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents—adding up all emissions and converting them to carbon dioxide units) per year.” UN.org
5: REDUCE FOOD WASTE and EAT SUSTAINABLY
Food waste is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. BBC.com
- Track the amount of food you pitch over a week, then buy only that amount the next week: buy only what you will likely use. ClimateRealityProject.org
- Get creative with leftover meals, and leftover ingredients. This saves money, too. NYTimes/Wirecutter
- Compost when you can, either through a city service or by composting at home. EPA.gov
- Add a plant-based meal to your weekly diet. OMDforThePlanet.com
The energy waste along the chain of food production is enormous—growing, harvesting, storing, transporting, cooking, and even decomposing food (releasing methane in landfills) is something that we can do something about. ClimateRealityProject.org
“According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), around a third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted.” WRI
What happens to food we throw out, that ends up in a landfill? ClimateRealityProject.org
“When we throw out food or leftovers, it goes to a landfill to decompose, which releases methane – a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat within our atmosphere over 20 years.” Note that the exact potency of methane compared with CO2 may be estimated in a range; for example, sometimes it is specified as having 24 times the heat-trapping caused by carbon dioxide, which is still extremely potent. Unlike the use of landfills, composting of food waste makes use of aerobic digestion that does not produce methane.
EAT SUSTAINABLY BBC.com
“Agriculture - together with forestry - accounts for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock rearing contributes to global warming through the methane gas the animals produce, but also via deforestation to expand pastures, for example.”
Effect of this change: “Cutting your food waste can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 300 kilograms of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents—adding up all emissions and converting them to carbon dioxide units) per year.” And if you can go vegetarian: “Switching from a mixed to a vegetarian diet can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 500 kilograms of CO2e per year (or up to 900 kilograms for a vegan diet).” UN.org
6: RETHINK TRANSPORTATION
- Reduce air travel, especially the short hopper flights where you have other options. NOAA.gov
- Drive less, and walk or ride, when possible, to reduce vehicular emissions. GreenerIdeal.com
- Consider whether you can use public transportation. Protocol.com
- Consider car-sharing options, available in some cities.
- If you can, purchase an electric vehicle—car, bike, or scooter! CarbonBrief.org
- Skip the cruise; these generate three to four times the emissions of air travel per passenger. GlobalCitizen.org
“Consider just the United States. In 2017, the transportation sector accounted for 29% of the nation’s total emissions.” YaleClimateConnections.org
“32 square feet of Arctic summer sea ice melts for every airline passenger who flies 2,500 miles.” YaleClimateConnections.org
“Emissions from light-duty vehicles in the U.S., such as cars and pickup trucks, came to nearly 1.1 billion metric tons of CO2e – about 17% of all carbon emissions in the country.” YaleClimateConnections.org
“[…] the rise in electric vehicles also has the potential to make an impact in coming decades,” reducing emissions. YaleClimateConnections.org
“Cruise travel, meanwhile, poses its own threats to the globe’s climate. The most efficient cruise ships emit three to four times more carbon emissions per passenger than commercial air travel.” YaleClimateConnections.org
Effect of this change: “Switching from a gasoline or diesel-powered car to an electric vehicle can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 2 tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents—adding up all emissions and converting them to carbon dioxide units) per year. A hybrid vehicle can save you up to 700 kilograms of CO2e per year." UN.org
“Living car-free can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 2 tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents—adding up all emissions and converting them to carbon dioxide units) per year compared to a lifestyle using a car.” UN.org
7: REDUCE, REUSE, AND RECYCLE
These actions are listed in order of impact. These steps also save money. trvst.world
- Reducing consumption also reduces resource use and the energy that goes into making the item. See if you have something on hand you can use, instead of buying new things. News.Climate.Columbia.edu
- Reuse: consider purchasing second-hand, to reduce the load on the landfills.
- Recycle: this reduces resource use and reduces waste; buy products made with recycled content, as well.
- Encourage companies you purchase from to provide recycling for their products.
“By choosing recycled items and supporting recycling, we can reduce energy consumption, direct emissions, and waste. Recycling reduces the collective need for virgin materials, which in turn translates to less use of fossil fuels for converting raw materials.”
“Due to the anaerobic decomposition in landfills, methane gas becomes released into the environment. Methane accounts for 25% of greenhouse gases worldwide.”
- Reduces our dependence on raw materials, thereby curbing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, and
- Targets waste reduction, which translates to lower emissions from landfills.
Effect of reducing clothing purchases: Every kilogram of textiles produced generates about 17 kilograms of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents—adding up all emissions and converting them to carbon dioxide units). Buying fewer new clothes – and other consumer goods – can reduce your carbon footprint and also cut down on waste.
Global effect of this change: “A study by Project Drawdown estimates that between 2020 and 2050, recycling can reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 5.5 - 6.02 gigatons.”
Material-based analysis of recycling: “Recycled aluminum cans use 95% less energy when we compare them to the energy manufacturers need to transform bauxite ore. When manufacturers create recycled paper products from 60% and 100% recycled fiber3, this can save 20% and 80% energy, respectively.”
8: USE YOUR MONEY TO SHAPE CHANGE
- Whenever possible, buy from sustainable businesses; green procurement provides incentives for businesses to go green. GreenBusinessBureau.com
- Support and invest in companies that are climate-friendly. “In the U.S., renewables yielded 200.3% returns versus 97.2% for fossil fuels […] Green energy stocks were also less volatile across the board than fossil fuels.”1 Forbes
- Consider investing in green projects. The UN Climate Convention keeps a portfolio of dozens of projects around the world you can contribute to. ClimateNeutralNow.org
1Vetter, David. ” Just How Good An Investment Is Renewable Energy? New Study Reveals All,” 05/28/2023. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidrvetter/2020/05/28/just”-how-good-an-investment-is-renewable-energy-new-study-reveals-all/?sh=73c39b214d27 . Accessed 2/2023.
- “across all generations—from Baby Boomers to Gen Z—are now willing to spend more for sustainable products. Just two years ago, only 58% of consumers across all generations were willing to spend more for sustainable options. Today, nearly 90% of Gen X consumers said that they would be willing to spend an extra 10% or more for sustainable products, compared to just over 34% two years ago.” Forbes
- “Globally, about 44 percent of consumers said they were more likely to buy from a brand with a clear commitment to sustainability in 2021.” Statista.com
Consumer interest in sustainability: IBM.com
- “3 out of 4 consumers reporting they want to do more to reach their sustainability goals at home, including reducing water and energy consumption, recycling products, and generating renewable energy at home.”
- “3 out of 5 consumers saying socially responsible or sustainable products made up at least half of their last purchase.”
- “62% of personal investors taking sustainability into account in their portfolios.”
- “2 out of 3 respondents say they are more willing to apply for (67%) and accept (68%) jobs from a sustainable company.”
- “Roughly 1 in 3 consumers say sustainable travel is a priority, ranking environmental impact factors over cost, convenience, and comfort in their purchase decisions. More than 1 in 3 (35%) say they’ve either stopped using personal cars that run on gasoline or use them less due to environmental concerns.
9: PRESERVE AND EXPAND THE NATURAL WORLD
- Plant trees and support organizations that do. WEForum.org
- Use the ECOSIA search engine where 80% of the ad revenue is used to plant trees. Ecosia.org
- Don’t use chemicals on plants. Beverly and Salem Climate Toolkit
“Greater biodiversity in ecosystems, species, and individuals leads to greater stability. For example, species with high genetic diversity and many populations that are adapted to a wide variety of conditions are more likely to be able to weather disturbances, disease, and climate change.” ReImaginingEducation.org
- “Biodiversity ensures health and food security. Biodiversity underpins global nutrition and food security.
- Biodiversity helps fight disease. Higher rates of biodiversity have been linked to an increase in human health.
- Biodiversity benefits business.
- Biodiversity provides livelihoods.
- Biodiversity protects us.”
“Forests provide us with oxygen, shelter, jobs, water, nourishment and fuel. With so many people dependent on forests, the fate of our forests may determine our own fate as well.” WWF.Panda.org
- “help prevent erosion and enrich and conserve soil, helping to protect communities from landslides and floods”
- produce “the rich topsoil needed to grow plants and crops. “
- “play an important role in the global water cycle, moving water across the earth by releasing water vapor and capturing rainfall.”
- “filter out pollution and chemicals, improving the quality of water available for human use.”
- “forests are home to over 80% of terrestrial biodiversity.”
- “the largest storehouses of carbon after the oceans, as they absorb this greenhouse gas from the air and lock it away above and below ground. So, it is no surprise that when we cut down or damage our forests, we release huge amounts of carbon emissions that contribute to the climate crisis.”
10: GO ELECTRIC
Part of the move away from fossil fuels that generate greenhouse gasses involves electrifying your household. This ensures a move from fossil fuels, as more and more renewables are added to the transmission grid. The following are also mentioned above, but worth repeating. WEForum.org
- Replacing furnaces and water heaters with heat pumps is supported by incentives through the Inflation Reduction Act. Energy.gov
- Consider replacing your car with an electric or perhaps a hybrid. CarbonBrief.org
From Forbes2: “The climate goal of electrification is a triad: transportation, industry, and buildings.”
- “[…] a wholesale replacement of conventional vehicles with electric ones is possible today and could play a significant role in meeting climate change mitigation goals…”
- This leads to “an approximately 30 percent reduction in emissions from transportation. Deeper emissions cuts would be realized if power plants decarbonize over time.”
- “[…] renewables could produce more than half of the world’s electricity by 2035, at lower prices than fossil-fuel generation.”
- “Industry consumes more energy than any other sector: 149 million terajoules in 2017,” with only 20% of that from electricity.
- “Of all the fuel that industrial companies use for energy, we estimate that almost 50 percent could be replaced with electricity, using technologies available today.” “Electrification of industrial processes that require heat up to approximately 1,000 degrees Celsius does not require a fundamental change in the industrial process setup…”
- “Up to a heat demand of approximately 400 degrees Celsius, electric alternatives to conventional equipment are commercially available”
Buildings: "...electrifying buildings can tackle emissions and improve public health.” WEForum.org
- “30% of emissions in the United States coming from the building sector.”
- “In built up areas, greenhouse gas emissions can result in higher numbers of pollutant-caused deaths and asthma-related illnesses.”
- “Ending fossil fuel combustion for heating and cooling buildings is one of the simplest ways to rapidly reduce these emissions <30% of US GHG>. With the current technology available, building owners can replace old equipment – gas furnaces, hot water heaters and gas stoves – with efficient, all-electric heat pumps that heat and cool buildings, hot water heaters and induction stoves instead.”
- “Globally, air pollution is the leading environmental risk factor for early death and burning fossil fuels is responsible for one in five deaths worldwide.”
2Clemente, Jude. “Electrification To Fight Climate Change: The Challenge Of A Lifetime,” Forbes. April 21, 2021. https://www.forbes.com/sites/judeclemente/2021/04/21/electrification-to-fight-climate-change-the-challenge-of-a-lifetime/?sh=42ecddc05a10. Accessed 3/1/2023.
Most of us can only do a few of these, but everyone can do something. Everything we do makes a difference!
Let us know what you are doing! We want your ideas and suggestions in the race to reduce carbon emissions.